Election Day Arrives: DC, Md., Va. Voters Head to Polls

WASHINGTON — After a long and bitter campaign for president, voters in the D.C. region will finally have their chance Tuesday to help settle whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will lead the nation.

Turnout is expected to be heavy at polling locations throughout the region Tuesday and voters could run into long lines. But the weather shouldn’t deter voters from heading out to cast those ballots. It is expected to be warm and sunny.

Polls in Virginia open at 6 a.m. In D.C. Maryland the polls open at 7 a.m.

Voters in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have much more to decide than who will move into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Marylanders will decide who will succeed Barbara Mikulski in the U.S. Senate — the trailblazer is retiring after decades of public service. Prince George’s County voters will decide whether to expand the County Council and fund its portion of the proposed Purple Line.

D.C. voters will select at-large council members and will weigh in on whether the District should push to become a state.

In Fairfax County, voters will decide whether to add a 4 percent meals tax on restaurant and prepared foods plus beverages.

Voters across Northern Virginia will also decide whether freshman lawmaker Barbara Comstock will serve a second term in Congress or whether her Democratic challenger LuAnn Bennett will represent the 10th District — what has turned into one of the most hotly contested races in the nation.

Virginia remains in play for both presidential candidates. Both the Trump and Clinton campaigns began buying advertising again in the expensive D.C. media market in recent weeks as Clinton’s lead over Trump has narrowed in Virginia. Both had largely pulled out of the region because polls showed Clinton had locked up support in the Old Dominion.

Two Virginia polls released in the past week show Clinton slightly ahead of Trump. In mid-October she commanded double digit leads over Trump.

Trump stumped in Leesburg early Monday morning and his daughter Ivanka held a get out the vote rally in Manassas Monday afternoon. Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine campaigned at George Mason University in Fairfax County on Monday evening.

Federal election monitors will be dispatched to Fairfax and Prince William counties to monitor any complaints or disruptions that would prevent Virginia voters form participating including intimidation, the Justice Department announced. Hundreds of monitors will be on the ground in 65 other jurisdictions spread across 27 other states Tuesday.

The political parties will have representatives at the polls and local election officials and procedures will help ensure the integrity of the election, said John Fortier, director of the Democracy Project for the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“We should be leery of claims that it is widely rigged or there is a big influence from the outside. There are many people dedicated with many good procedures in place to try and make this election fair,” Fortier said.

The number of Americans voting early — by mail or in person — could be as high as 40 percent this year. But that doesn’t mean total turnout will be higher because many voters simply enjoy the convenience of casting their ballots before Election Day, he said.

“It’s not too late. It is one little piece of the puzzle, your vote. But it is important and people should exercise it.”

More than 20 percent of registered voters have cast their ballots early in both D.C. and Maryland. In Virginia, about 10 percent of voters have submitted absentee ballots either through the mail or by voting in person.

More than 100,000 Fairfax County voters have cast ballots so far, including in-person and mail-in ballots. The high number could take some pressure off the polls on Tuesday, but local election officials are not taking any chances.

“We are deploying nearly 4,000 election officers in Fairfax County. That’s the most we ever had,” said Fairfax County Registrar Cameron Sasnett.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report. 

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